CHEYENNE, Wyo. – When Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, decided to vote to impeach a president from her own party, she knew she'd cause some waves. She might not have expected the seismic impact at home.
But Cheney's vote against Donald Trump has put her home state of Wyoming — by some measures the most Republican state in the country — on the front lines of the GOP civil war. The rising GOP leader and daughter of a former vice president is now facing the prospect of censure from the state party, a primary challenge and the wrath of Trump and his loyalists vowing to make her pay.
House Republicans are expected to decide next week whether to strip Cheney of her job as House conference chair. Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, an ardent Trump ally from Florida, urged about 1,000 people Thursday at an anti-Cheney rally in Cheyenne to vote her out.
“Wyoming will bring Washington to its knees,” Gaetz said to cheers. “Washington, D.C., mythologizes the establishment powerbrokers like Liz Cheney for climbing in a deeply corrupt game. But there are more of us than there are of them.”
Many rallygoers' signs called for Cheney's impeachment. Some signs toward the back read “Thank You Liz” and “Florida Man Is An Idiot.”
Cheney's fate at home and in Washington will be one indicator of whether GOP traditionalists or Trump-aligned activists determine the direction of the party. Her troubles have already served as a warning for Republicans in the Senate, most of whom signaled Tuesday they would vote to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection. Meanwhile, Trump’s political action committee, Save America, is using a poll it commissioned on Cheney’s popularity with Wyoming voters to taunt her — and show other Republicans what may lie ahead when they don’t support Trump.
Cheney's defenders cast the blowback from her vote as ginned up by attention-seekers. “Wyoming doesn’t like it when outsiders come into our state and try to tell us what to do,” said Amy Edmonds, a former Cheney staffer and past state legislator.
But there’s little doubt the lawmaker in her third term is facing homegrown opposition in a state where the establishment’s once-firm grip has been slipping.